Mercedes are one of three teams testing their young drivers at Magny-Cours in France this week. These few days are valuable for developing and evaluating up-and-coming drivers but, more importantly in this era of limited testing, they present an opportunity to test potential upgrades. Mercedes are using the time wisely and testing a new DDRS system similar to that being developed by Lotus as well as a new exhaust system.
The DDRS system allows the rear wing to be stalled at a specific speeds to reduce drag and increase straight-line speed. The system needs to operate only at speeds higher than that of the fastest corner on the track, to allow for maximum downforce when it is most needed. The configuration therefore requires evaluation and fine-tuning before it can be raced.
The new exhaust layout makes use of the Coanda effect – the tendency of a fluid jet to be attracted to a nearby surface – to divert exhaust flow to the floor around the diffuser, increasing the speed of the air moving through the diffuser and thereby creating extra downforce due to lower pressure under the rear of the car. According to team principal Ross Brawn, the benefits of the new exhaust could be significant for low-speed traction, one of the areas where the car currently suffers.
Mercedes have struggled with tyre management since the beginning of the season, and have therefore put off developing the new exhaust system and instead focused on understanding the tyres. Now that tyre degradation is no longer such a problem on the W03, Mercedes are pushing to develop the car and finish the season on a high note.
No amount of development will put Mercedes back in the championship fight, but the improvements will carry over to the 2013 car as the regulations are to remain fairly constant through to next season. It is therefore crucial for their bid to return to the front of the grid that Mercedes use this time as productively as possible. Any progress made will be revealed in the races, but there has not yet been any indication of when the team expects to run the updated car.